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The All-Bargain Free Agent Lineup

It's tough to find bargains via free agency.  Players are past their peaks and are being compensated more for their past performance than their future.  Still, a few deals slip through the cracks every year.  Let's assemble a lineup with the best bargains at each position.  I'll do the pitchers in another post.

C - Gregg Zaun.  A million bucks, .360 OBP.  I'll take that any time for my catcher.  J.P. Ricciardi can complain about payroll, but there was no good reason to toss $5 mil at Bengie Molina this year.

1B - Craig Wilson.  The first base crop is pretty thin on good players, let alone bargains.  It's a tough position to fill; you need to OPS somewhere between .810-.880 just to be league average.  A 30 year-old Wilson would probably fall right in the middle of that range.  For four or five million bucks that's not the worst thing in the world.

2B - Mark Loretta.  The power's all gone, but at least he still gets on base.  Shouldn't cost more than $4MM.

SS - Craig Counsell.  He's not the most exciting choice, but Julio Lugo's not going to be a bargain.  Counsell can play good defense and get on base a little bit.  It'd make for a powerless middle infield, but they'd be affordable and won't embarrass you. 

3B - Aubrey Huff.  Another lousy market.  Huff will be league average for a third baseman if he picks it up to career levels next year.  He'll turn 30 in December.  If Huff makes $7MM next year, he definitely won't be a bargain.  But this is the best I can do, and I'm not picking Pedro Feliz.

LF - David Dellucci/Eric Byrnes.  This platoon assumes Byrnes isn't offered or doesn't accept arbitration, so I'm cheating a little bit.  But the point is to combine the righty-mashing Dellucci with a lefty-masher.  There are plenty of other possibilities to reach the same goal: swap Dellucci out for Frank Catalanotto, swap Byrnes out for Jose Cruz Jr.  It would require a manager that understands and respects the platoon; I'll take Larry Dierker. If done right I think you could get a .900 OPS and a short-term commitment for less than $7MM.  Sure beats breaking the bank on Carlos Lee.

CF - Jim Edmonds.  If he'll take around $7MM annually for a year or two, that could be a decent bargain.  Even on the decline Edmonds is a great hitter for his position.  And remember, I'm using some versatile fourth outfielder types in left who can help fill in for thirty games in center.

RF - Jose Guillen.  He had an ugly half-season, dealing with all sorts of injuries and culminating in elbow surgery.  He adds solid defense to this group and can hold his own with the bat.  I'm going to offer one year, $6MM and a chance to re-establish himself.   

So here's the Opening Day lineup, with projected salary:

Dellucci - $4MM
Loretta - $4MM
Edmonds - $8MM
Guillen - $6MM
Wilson - $5MM
Huff - $5MM
Zaun - $1.5MM
Counsell - $2MM

My 1-8 hitters make less than $36MM.  Throw in Byrnes and we're probably around $40MM for the starting lineup.  There are problems.  The lineup lacks any monster hitters.  It's quite old.  Defense at first and third base will be lacking.  It may have health issues with Guillen and Edmonds.  A few things would have to go right, but this would still be a lineup without an easy out.

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Comments

Even if it is a bargain, this starting lineup wouldn't be that great, maybe a third or fourth place team depending on pitching. Mixing those bargain picks with some higher priced ones could help any team though.

How about supplementing it with the "2007 version of the 2006 Marlins"? In other words, review the '06 draft, randomly pick a position and then make a starting lineup out of the results (and also do free agent/draft pitchers). Could be interesting.

Or if not higher priced picks, lower priced young studs. Most teams have at least one or two. That's why a team like the Royals or D-Rays could actually score some runs in a few years.

Chris, I'm not sure what you're saying. An all-rookie team?

What you're basicaly suggesting is the Kansas City Royals but a bit better. Aging players who are decent but not enough to make the playoffs. I understand you wouldn't make a lineup out of these guys, but most of the teams that are looking for budget picks will probably be looking for youth, and most of the teams who aren't rebuilding will probably want the better players on the market.

These picks are basically for teams with payrolls around about $60M.

For an all free agent line-up I would take it.

Yes, but with a twist. Go through the draft and select the players that (in your estimation) would be the best available to make an immediate impact (2007 anyway), round-by-round. So if Longoria is your pick @ 3B in the 1st round, you need to take the best available of some other position in round 2 (say, Jason Taylor as your SS) and put together a team that way. Would be interesting to see how your picks pan out :)

Wilson is posting pretty crappy numbers with the Yankees so far... though his versitility and power is definatly a plus.

Delluci probably will get a raise this year.

You can probably add Trot Nixon as a potential bargin. Injury history and declining power will drop his price. His OBP is rising though, so he's still a strong middle of the order hitter.

Though I wouldn't be suprised if he stays, especially with talks about trading Coco and possibly sending David Murphy to Florida in exchange for a young pitcher.

Oh and I agree with curveball, but in the end it would entirely depend on the pitching staff.

At the beginning of the year on Athletics Nation, we did something similar, only we made a full team of free agents using the average MLB payroll for a cap. I threw out the Marlins payroll and came up with $79,433,632.00 as the average. Here's my team for 2007 at that price:

CF Dave Roberts $4 million
LF Frank Catalanotto/Eric Byrnes platoon $6 million
3B Aramis Ramirez $14 million
RF David Dellucci $3 million
1B Craig Wilson $3 million
2B Mark DeRosa $3 million
C Greg Zaun $1 million
SS Craig Counsell $3 million

Bench:

C Adam Melhuse $1 million
OF Jeff Conine $1.5 million
IN Alex Cora $1 million
UT Geoff Blum $1 million

Rotation:

Randy Wolf $6 million
Gil Meche $7 million
Jeff Weaver $6 million
Woddy Williams $4 million
Kip Wells $4 million

Bullpen:

Joe Borowski $3 million
Roberto Hernandez $2 million
David Weathers $1.5 million
Aaron Fultz $1 million
Alan Embree $1 million
Pedro Astacio $1 million
Tanyon Sturtze $1 million

Plenty of versatility in the field, with Wilson, DeRosa, Counsell, Blum, Conine, Cora, and Melhuse all capable of playing 2-3 positions. Total payroll of $79 million.

The pitching staff is terrible though. Vicente Padilla is going to be one of the best signings this year, IMO.

I wouldn't say the staff is terrible. I put this together as an NL team in a pitchers park. Wolf is already showing he's regained his form after surgery, Meche is coming into his own and a switch to the NL would be huge for him, Weaver can't be as bad as he was this year, Wells could be a #3 guy if healthy all year, and Williams is another veteran arm.

The pen is solid with a good to very good closer in Borowski, two solid setup guys in Hernandez and Weathers, two very effective LHP if used as LOOGYS, and two average long relief/spot starters.

Is anyone going to win a Cy Young on this team? Not very likely, although I think Wolf and Meche will both be very good next year. It's a league average to slightly better than average staff, in the right environment as I worked from.

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